If Monsanto Was a Person...
By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.
The following video is from the March 16, 2012, action that shut down a Monsanto research facility in Davis, Calif. In the video, a young boy, Ci Yin Sun Thunder, host of Small World Radio, tells Monsanto's story as if, as the Supreme Court has ruled, Monsanto was actually a person. Check out the video, then read on to learn more about the problem of giving corporations the legal rights of people and what we can do to control corporations like Monsanto.
Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, big corporations like Monsanto are allowed to spend obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government. They use their clout to block popular, common-sense regulations needed to protect human health and the environment. With corporate money flooding our electoral and legislative system, even minor reforms, like labels on genetically engineered food—a cause supported by more than 90 percent of the voting public—are blocked.
When it comes to elections for public office, the choice between Democrats and Republicans can be very narrow. Neither political party is going to take a stand against genetic engineering or dangerous pesticides, as long as companies like Monsanto ply candidates from both parties with campaign contributions and incessant lobbying.
But, there is one place in this shredded democracy where the one-person-one-vote ideal may still hold sway: in the electoral tools of direct democracy. The use initiatives, referendums, and recalls can launch a ballot box insurgency that begins at the local, municipal and county level, and then moves to the state level and even federal level.
A ballot box insurgency, reinforced by direct action, along with workplace, marketplace and community organizing, will enable our forces to gradually replace most of the nation's indentured politicians with new leaders and public servants who truly represent the people, not the economic royalty. Such an electoral insurgency cannot be sparked by humdrum partisan politics. It requires electoral campaigns that offer real solutions to our current life or death problems, that educate and mobilize grassroots forces, that change the balance of power away from the corporate elite, and return real power to the grassroots.
This year in California, we have a chance to win back our right to know what's in our food from Monsanto by taking the Label GMOs ballot initiative for labels on genetically modified food to the voters in the November 2012 election.
Here are a few inspiring uses of initiatives, referendums and recalls, along with more ways the 99 percent can take our democracy back from the richest 1 percent:
CELDF.org—In 2002, with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Porter Township, Clarion County, a municipality of 1,500 residents an hour north of Pittsburgh in Northwestern Pennsylvania, became the first local government in the U.S. to eliminate corporate claims to civil and constitutional privileges. Initially used to protect Pennsylvania communities from polluting factory farms and and toxic sewage sludge, localities across the country have used the same strategy to regulate dangerous chemicals, food safety, gas drilling, uranium mining, big box stores, sustainable energy and local water resources. More than 100 communities have adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted ordinances.
Amend2012.org—Have as many states as possible pass ballot resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment stripping corporations of constitutional rights.
FairVote.org—To be a truly fair, open and equitable democracy, we need to break the stranglehold of the two major parties—and the corporations like Monsanto that control them—and make sure that every vote counts. This can be achieved through reforms like Choice Voting, a National Popular Vote for President, Instant Runoff Voting, a Constitutional Right to Vote and Universal Voter Registration.
OccupyTogether.org—The Occupy Movement is changing—and saving—the world. Through the astonishing power of creative nonviolence, it has the magic and moxie to defeat the failing forces of corporate greed. Occupy has been actively campaigning against Monsanto, and led the Shut-Down Monsanto actions on March 16, 2012, that targeted Monsanto locations worldwide.
Fully Prosecute Corporate Crime—Human beings charged with serious crimes can get plea bargains, but they have to admit their guilt and accept the punishment. Corporations charged with serious crimes get special treatment. They get to bargain for their punishment without admitting guilt. This is how Federal Prosecutors dealt with Monsanto when it was caught bribing giving an Indonesian regulator $50,000 to drop a requirement to conduct an environmental review before authorizing the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
Stop the Privatization & Financialization of Nature—We've seen what the banks and the speculators have done with mortgages. Now companies like Monsanto, Nestle and Cargill are adding patented plants and animals, staple foods, farmland, forests and water to their casinos. Just as they drove millions from their homes, they're now leaving billions without clean water or enough to eat.
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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